At the beginning of the 20th century, a leather goods shop called Fratelli Prada opened in the Vittorio Emanuele Gallery in the very centre of Milan. Founders Mario Prada and his brother Martino could never have imagined that one day their name would be synonymous with Italian fashion all over the world.
In 1913, the Prada brothers began importing leather handbags and luggage from England to sell in Italy. Their first success came just a few years later, when their company was named “Official Supplier to the Italian Royal Household”, allowing them to use the House of Savoy insignia in their logo, and resulting in Prada’s fame spreading among Europe’s aristocracy.
As time went on the company helm was taken first by Luisa Prada – Mario and Martino’s sister – and then by her daughter Miuccia, after Luisa’s death in 1978. When Mario Prada once said that women couldn’t do his job, he certainly wasn’t expecting anything like that.
The Dream Unfolds
The turning point for the company came in 1977, when Miuccia met her husband Patrizio Bertelli, a Tuscan businessman in the leather goods market. He encouraged her to follow the dream of making her own bags and to stop importing. Just a few years later she launched her first creations. In 1984, two years after creating her women’s shoe collection, Miuccia Prada launched the Prada backpack. Made of a special fine nylon twisted weave, it soon became one of the labels most iconic items. In 1988 Prada launched its women’s haute couture collections to great acclaim.
The growing importance of the Italian fashion group led to their opening the first in a series of flagship stores in the Milanese central Via Della Spiga, which was followed by stores in New York, Madrid, Paris and Tokyo.
In the Nineties, the Italian fashion group continued to expand, with the creation of a men’s collection and a new label Miu Miu. Created by Miuccia Prada to meet the needs of young women who wanted to be both on-trend and elegant without losing their personality, the line offers haute couture as well as accessories, handbags, footwear, fragrances and eyewear, the latter the result of special agreements signed by Prada with Luxottica, a leader in the Italian eyewear industry. They also signed agreements with the PUIG beauty and fashion group for the production and worldwide distribution of the feminine and masculine fragrances as well as the sunglasses and eyewear collections.
In 2001, Car Shoe, the iconic Italian brand created by Gianni Mostile in 1963, became part of the Prada group. The elegant and immediately recognisable driving moccasins were soon a staple in the Prada collections and much loved by the international glitterati.
More than Fashion
Miuccia Prada and her husband have always been passionate not only about fashion but the arts. In 1993 they created “Milano Prada Arte”, later changed to the Prada Foundation, a project intended to bring together the brightest minds in the fields of arts, culture, cinema, design and fashion.
Prada’s foray into the world of cinema led to the making in 2005 of Thunder Perfect Mind, a short film directed by Ridley Scott to launch Prada’s new female fragrance. Three years later, a Prada collection was the inspiration for another short film, Trembled Blossoms, by James Jean: its bright colors and creativity fully reflecting the ethos of the Italian fashion house.
Prada also entered the sports world, becoming sponsors of sailing teams and other events. They also worked with new technologies, launching the Prada Phone by LG in 2007.
In 2009, Prada published the Prada Book, a celebration of the innovation and creativite achievemnets that have led to it being one of the most shining examples of the made-in-Italy ethos.
With three Prada Epicenters in Broadway, Tokyo and Beverly Hills, headquarters in Italy and New York, and boutiques and stores all over the globe, Prada has become one of the most famous fashion names in the world. Taking design seriously both in terms of product and environment, the Tokyo store was designed by world famous architects, Pritzker Prizewinners, Herzog & deMeuron. In its 2010 Annual Report, the Prada Group’s revenue was estimated at about 2.15 billion Euros, a great leap from that little leather shop in Milan and something that Mario and Martino Prada would be very proud of indeed.